A double brush with death pushed my “baby” out of the womb.
Patience is my paradise. I would never birth a baby before its time, unless death came knocking at my door. This is one of those times.
We once had a romantic idea of the artist — starving in his or her lifetime, discovered posthumously. In the old days, Thoreau was the “town joke.” Blake was a “madman.” Whitman was “reckless.” But history got it right.
The Age of Acceleration is killing even this possibility. Even after you die, it’s even more likely that your work will die with you. We’re all too busy, too distracted, too overwhelmed. If another Chopin, another Van Gogh came along, we’d never know it.
Our capacity—or incapacity—to pay attention “may be the deﬁning moral and political struggle of our time. Its success is prerequisite for the success of virtually all other struggles,” writes James Williams.
In the midst of birthing my own baby, I found myself in a wheelchair, then the hospital, then dying. I contracted a hazardous combination of toxic mold poisoning and lyme disease. I’ll never forget the look of death on my doctors’ faces as they reviewed my medical reports and told me there was nothing more they could do.
I was still in my forties when I wrote my will and prepared to die. And my “baby” was about to die with me.
So what is this new “baby”?
First I have to warn you. If you buy into the myth of social media … if you believe “the way” to connect with people is through blank boxes, infinite scrolls, and like buttons … you may not get this new baby.
Marc Andreessen explains it this way: “It has to be something where, when people look at it, at first they say, “I don’t get it. I don’t understand it. I think it’s too weird; I think it’s too unusual.”
What would be unusual — and urgently needed — is a leap beyond the current architectures of social media. A way out of the wilderness, and darkness, of an insidious new power — the Controligarchy.
As the recent Netflix documentary makes clear, the Controligarchy is using PGEs — Precision Guided Emotions — to manipulate our minds and emotions in ways we never imagined. Goebbels is spinning with envy from his grave — never have we built such a powerful misinformation machine.
The Controligarchy is robbing us of our agency, robbing us of our capacity to be still, robbing us of our right to think and feel what we want to think and feel. If hell is the inability to love, as Dostoevski says, then the Controligarchy is imprisoning us in a new kind of hell.
No one would pour clean water into a dirty river and then drink from it. But this is what we are doing with social media. Every time we post “positive” content to our feeds, we are enlarging the dirty river.
For the past 12 years, I and a small band of brothers and sisters have been countering the Controligarchy with an entirely new river of relationship. We call it the (inner)Net. It provides what Big Tech has still failed to provide — a space to become the people we know, deep in our hearts, we can become.
The (inner)Net builds on a growing body of science and spirituality, which converge around the concept of deliberate development. The secret of elite performance in athletics, the arts, music, space exploration — and now inner exploration — is not just practice, but deliberate practice.
We asked: what if instead of mindless scrolls, empty boxes, like buttons, and manipulative feeds, we built a Deliberately Developmental Social Network? How would we do it?
The answer, it turns out, is patterns. Patterns are at the root of just about everything in our universe, from cosmic explosions to how we laugh and love. Our brains are pattern recognition machines. Just about everyone these days is talking about patterns — in AI, psychology, neuroscience, economics.
“We can go beyond the ordinary powers of the material world through the power of patterns,” says Ray Kurzweil. “Patterns have the power to lead us to a deeper state of consciousness that brings us home to ourselves, to each other and to our place within the universe,” says Anna Murray, co-founder of Patternity.
This was our seminal insight — our “aha moment” — that we can counter the Controligarchy by ritualizing our patterns of wellbeing. We do this through a new genre of pattern-sharing called Wellgorithms.
One of your friends might have a peace pattern. Another, a resilience pattern. Another, a courage-in-the-face-of-death pattern. With Wellgorithms, you can cut and paste the patterns of the people you admire, and then create collages of the person you aspire to be — inside.
Wellgorithms are like an (inner)CRISPR. They give you a way to “edit” your thoughts and emotions, and then “presence your best future self,” as Otto Scharmer puts it. But instead of cramming your best self into a single box, you go on a journey, and give yourself breathing room.
Nearly every professional discipline has “best practices.” But our species has barely touched upon Best Emotional Practices (BEPs). Now each of us can create our own personal library of BEPs, our own unique blueprints of wisdom, which we can share and evolve in community.
Who has the best anger-management strategy? Who is good at letting go? At flourishing even in chaos? We’re about to find out.
The early Wellgorithms explore the BEPs of our heroes—how Lincoln, Mandela and King navigated the most challenging circumstances. But we soon realized that to share their BEPs, we had to name them.
This led to our second aha moment — that names open new dimensions of thought, feeling, and sense-making.
“Naming the hurt is how we begin to repair our broken parts,” says Desmond Tutu, reflecting on his Truth and Reconciliation experiences. “Giving the emotion a name is the way we come to understand how what happened affected us.”
Poets and mystics have long explored the invisible forces, the Great Elephant of thoughts, emotions, and sensations, too vast for any of us to name. But now the science of naming our emotions is exploding. And now we have the tools to name our emotions at scale.
“The limits of my language are the limits of my world,” said Wittgenstein. Through a new consilience of poetry and the sciences, we are coming to an astonishing realization: We can lift the limits of language. We can liberate ourselves from the old metaphors. We can do what no generation has ever done before — split the (inner)Atom.
So often we find ourselves saying, “I don’t have a word for this feeling.” Now we are generating hundreds, even thousands of new words for each feeling. We are peering behind the curtains of consciousness — “behind the behind” — and discovering vast new spaces of awareness, each of which has a unique name.
With the help of artificial intelligence, neuroscience and quantum computing, we are learning how “to possess other eyes, to see the universe through the eyes of another, of a hundred others, to see the hundred universes that each of them sees,” as Marcel Proust put it.
It is morning again for our species, as we awaken in a Genesis Age, an age of quantum leaps in creativity. We are Adams and Eves of the early dawn, naming not just outer things, but inner things. The “internet of things” is morphing into the “wellness of things,” allowing us to surface sensibilities that we are just now naming.
So this was my “baby”—the (inner)Net. It was inspired by a simple but profound idea: that to solve our outer crises — climate change, inequality, racism, polarization — we need to heal our inner crises.
We have the blueprints for a new flourishing. But it will take more than blueprints. As of 2021, the (inner)Net is a testimony to George Berkeley’s famous principle — it does not yet exist because people cannot perceive it. Or they are too busy to perceive it. Or the Controligarchy will not let them perceive it.
Now I see — understand in my bones — why so many artists and creators of new categories drank themselves to death. As Nietzsche said, “Most creative souls are not strong enough. They become sick and melancholy, and then die. Only iron constitutions like Beethoven, Goethe, Schopenhauer and Wagner can survive.”
More recently, Philip Horvath wrote of the insane pressures that startup founders are under — and many commit suicide. “As an innovator, who is trying to expand the existing cultural operating system, be it as an artist, entrepreneur, corporate change maker or activist, the cards are stacked against you.”
The cards nearly killed me. But after my own brush with death, something shifted inside. The small stuff — the worries, upsets, misunderstandings — lost their grip on me. The simplest things became the loveliest things. A fresh vegetable from the garden, a smile from a stranger, a sunrise sent me into a rapture. Just to hug a friend or hear a heartbeat was enough.
As I slowly (and partially) recovered from my own illness, my joy was severely tested throughout the COVID season, when I lost a cousin and several close friends. Then, in May 2021, my wife had a bad car accident and was rushed to the hospital with contusions from head to toe.
Then, six days later, my brother died. There I was, giving a eulogy for Robert, helpless as I watched my mother drown in tears.
We are in the midst of a generational brush with death—and not just of our bodies. Spiritual death is sweeping our planet. The Controligarchy is killing our spirits, killing hope, killing love. Our sovereignty, our capacity to “be the peace we wish to see,” as Gandhi said, is under siege.
In such times of trauma, the artists emerge, challenging the Controligarchy with their greatest power—creativity. This time they are doing more than creating art; they are creating new mediums of art, new mediums of solidarity, new mediums of dissent.
My brother was an artist. He had dreams, but they perished with him. It breaks my heart that he never had a chance to say goodbye. And so, friends, if I die suddenly, this is my goodbye:
The dust from exploding stars travelled a long way to come live in your heart. You are a miraculous bit of matter. Make every day matter.
You are the shepherd of a unique gift of wisdom, a gift that only you can give. Whatever obstacles you face, whatever burdens you bear, give us this gift.
Make room for the angels. Peace, love, compassion, gratitude, kindness, generosity, patience, humility — make room for them all.
Nourish a wellspring of joy so deep that nothing can ever dry you up. Laugh often, laugh a lot, laugh until your belly begs for a break.
You are the child of a double miracle — the expansion of outer space, and the expansion of inner space. Expand your inner space.
You are Generation Genesis. The creative generation. The generation of new beginnings. Rise up, unite, and generate new realities—spaces beyond the darkness, where your better angels can come out and play.